Every day brings new evidence that action sports are becoming bigger than ever. This week’s news that VF Corp, the company that owns Vans, purchased Timberland is arguably the most mind-blowing indication yet. Bob Dylan was right: the times they are a changin’.
Thirty years ago, this news would have been greeted with disbelief, but today it barely even warranted a mention in the industry press, with OnBoard, Whitelines, Transworld Business and Transworld Snowboarding all leaving the acquisition off their news pages. This may be down to a number of reasons. Maybe they didn’t find it newsworthy. Or maybe they didn’t even receive the press release. But the most likely explanation is that the industry has changed so drastically in the last fifteen years that such previously industry-shaking news has become positively routine.
The signs are everywhere. Today, universities offer not only courses, but whole degrees based around action sports content: in both Surf Science and Extreme Sports Management. It’s another sign of how society is striving to keep up with the growing demand for action sports to be integrated into everyday life.
Run the numbers and it is easy to understand why: more people are participating in action sports than ever before. This BBC story from last year suggests the number of people participating in the top five extreme sports in the USA to be over 40 million, with skateboarding finishing second behind mountain biking. The BBC even goes as far as to suggest that action sports managed to swerve the killer-downturn of the late naughties thanks to the fact that those who invest in it invest in the lifestyle and see it maybe as a necessity instead of a passing trend, therefore increasing customer loyalty. So it’s official: action sports are recession proof as well.
To get an idea of just how huge action sports are becoming just take a look at Nike. The sports giant started their action sports division SB in an attempt to enter the skateboarding market almost a decade ago. With the introduction of Nike 6.0 in 2005 – aimed at the rest of the action sports market – 6.0 and SB combined are now the fastest growing division at Nike and they expect to double their $390 million business by 2015.
With a global leader like Nike showing their determination and interest in the action sports industry it’s clear to see that this industry is now the biggest of business. Volcom’s recent sale to luxury French company PPR (owners of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent) highlights the way in which big brands now need to align themselves with action sports.
Which brings us back to VFC and Timberland. Fashions come and go, and maybe the big-wigs over at VF Corps know something that we don’t. Maybe next season’s skate shoe will be pay homage to the likes of Kyle James, seen above ripping Brooklyn a new one in a pair of ‘Timbs’ back in ’97. Far fetched? One thing is for certain: these are strange and new times for action sports.